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WOMEN OF ENGLAND.
what were their characteristics ; because I
would justify the obtrusiveness of a work CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WOMEN OF ENGLAND.
like this by first premising that the women Every country has its peculiar character of England are deteriorating in their moral istics, not only of climate and scenery, of character, and that false notions of refinepublic institutions, government, and laws; ment are rendering them less influential, less but every country has also its moral charac useful, and less happy than they were. teristics, upon which is founded its true title In speaking of what English women were, to a station, either high or low, in the scale I would not be understood to refer to what of nations.
they were a century ago. Facilities in the The national characteristics of England way of mental improvement have greatly inare the perpetual boast of her patriotic sons; creased during this period. In connection and there is one especially which it behooves with moral discipline, these facilities are inall British subjects not only to exult in, but to valuable ; but I consider the two excellences cherish and maintain. Leaving the justice as having been combined in the greatest perof her laws, the extent of her commerce, and fection in the general average of women who the amount of her resources, to the orator, have now attained to middle, or rather ad. the statesman, and the political economist, vanced age. When the cultivation of the there yet remains one of the noblest features mental faculties had so far advanced as to in her national character, which may not im- take precedence of the oral, by leaving no properly be regarded as within the compass time for domestic usefulness, and the practice of a woman's understanding, and the prov- of personal exertion in the way of promoting ince of a woman's pen. It is the domestic general happiness, the character of the wocharacter of England—the home comforts, men of England assumed a different aspect, and fireside virtues for which she is so justly which is now beginning to tell upon society celebrated. These I hope to be able to speak in the sickly sensibilities, the feeble frames, of without presumption, as intimately asso
and the useless habits of the rising generation. ciated with, and dependent upon, the mora) In stating this humiliating fact, I must be feelings and habits of the women of this fa- blind indeed to the most cheering aspect of vored country.
modern society, not to perceive that there It is therefore in reference to these alone are signal instances of women who carry that I shall endeavor to treat the subject of about with them into every sphere of domes. England's nationality; and in order to do tic duty, even the most humble and obscure, this with more precision, it is necessary to the accomplishments and refinements of moddraw the line of observation within a nar. ern education; and who deem it rather an rower circle, and to describe what are the honor than a degradation to be permitted to characteristics of the women of England. I add to the sum of human happiness, by difought, perhaps, in strict propriety, to say | fusing the embellishments of mind and man.
ners over the homely and familiar aspect of and, avoiding the two extremes where cir. every-day existence.
cumstances not peculiar to that class are Such, however, do not constitute the ma- supposed to operate, to take the middle or jority of the female population of Great intervening portion as a specimen of the Britain. By far the greater portion of the whole. young ladies (for they are no longer women) Napoleon Bonaparte was accustomed to of the present day, are distinguished by a speak of the English nation as a “nation of morbid listlessness of mind and body, except shopkeepers ;” and when we consider the when under the influence of stimulus, a con number, the influence, and the respectability stant pining for excitement, and an eagerness of that portion of the inhabitants who are, to escape from every thing like practical and directly or indirectly, connected with our individual duty. Of course, I speak of those trade and merchandise, it does indeed apwhose minds are not under the influence of pear to constitute the mass of English soreligious principle. Would that the excep- ciety, and may justly be considered as extion could extend to all who profess to be hibiting the most striking and unequivocal governed by this principle !
proofs of what are the peculiar characterisGentle, inoffensive, delicate, and passively tics of the people of England. It is not amiable as many young ladies are, it seems therefore from the aristocracy of the land an ungracious task to attempt to rouse them that the characteristics of English women from their summer dream; and were it not should be taken; because the higher the that wintry days will come, and the surface rank, and the greater the facilities of comof life be ruffled, and the mariner, even she munication with other countries, the more who steers the smallest bark, be put upon the prevalent are foreign manners, and modes of inquiry for what port she is really bound-thinking and acting common to that class of were it not that the cry of utter helplessness society in other countries. Neither is it enis of no avail in rescuing from the waters of tirely among the indigent and most laborious affliction, and the plea of ignorance unheard of the community, that we can with proupon the far-extending and deep ocean of priety look for those strong features of naexperience, and the question of accounta- tionality, which stamp the moral character bility perpetually sounding, like the voice of of different nations; because the urgency of a warning spirit, above the storms and the mere physical wants, and the pressure of billows of this lower world-I would be one constant and necessary labor, naturally inof the very last to call the dreamer back to duce a certain degree of resemblance in so. a consciousness of present things. But this cial feelings and domestic habits, among state of listless indifference, my sisters, must people similarly circumstanced, to whatever not be.
You have deep responsibilities; country they may belong. you have urgent claims; a nation's moral In looking around, then, upon our “ nation worth is in your keeping. Let us inquire of shopkeepers," we readily perceive that by then in what way it may be best preserved. dividing society into three classes, as regards Let us consider what you are, and have what is commonly called rank, the middle been, and by what peculiarities of feeling and class must include so vast a portion of the habit you have been able to throw so much intelligence and moral power of the country additional weight into the scale of your at large, that it may not improperly be desig. country's worth.
nated the pillar of our nation's strength, its In order to speak with precision of the base being the important class of the labocharacteristics of any class of people, it is rious poor, and its rich and highly ornamentali necessary to confine our attention as much capital, the ancient nobility of the land. In no as possible to that portion of the class where other country is society thus beautifully prosuch characteristics are most prominent; portioned, and England should beware of any
deviation from the order and symmetry of renders it impossible for her to be satisfied her national column.
without actually doing something for the obThere never was a more short-sighted ject of her regard. I speak only of woman view of society, than that by which the wo in her refined and elevated character. Vanimen of our country have lately learned to ty can satiate itself with admiration, and look with envious eyes upon their superiors selfishness can feed upon services received; in rank, to rival their attainments, to imitate but woman's love is an overflowing and inextheir manners, and to pine for the luxuries haustible fountain, that must be perpetually they enjoy; and consequently to look down imparting from the source of its own blessedwith contempt upon the appliances and ness. It needs but slight experience to know, means of humbler happiness. The women that the mere act of loving our fellow-creaof England were once better satisfied with tures does little towards the promotion of that instrumentality of Divine wisdom by their happiness. The human heart is not so which they were placed in their proper credulous as to continue to believe in affecsphere. They were satisfied to do with tion without practical proof. Thus the intertheir own hands what they now leave un change of mutual kind offices begets a confidone, or repine that they cannot have others dence which cannot be made to grow out of to do for them.
any other foundation ; and while gratitude A system of philosophy was once promul- | is added to the connecting link, the character gated in France, by which it was attempted on each side is strengthened by the personal to be proved that so much of the power and energy required for the performance of every the cleverness of man was attributable to his duty. hand, that but for a slight difference in the There may exist great sympathy, kindformation of this organ in some of the infe ness, and benevolence of feeling, without the rior animals, they would have been entitled to power of bringing any of these emotions into rank in the same class with him. Whatever exercise for the benefit of others. They exist may be said of the capabilities of man's hand, as emotions only. And thus the means which I believe the feminine qualification of being appear to us as the most gracious and benigable to use the hand willingly and well, has nant of any that could have been adopted by a great deal to do with the moral influence our heavenly Father for rousing us into neof woman. The personal services she is thus cessary exertion, are permitted to die away, enabled to render, enhance her value in the fruitless and unproductive, in the breast, domestic circle, and when such services are where they ought to have operated as a performed with the energy of a sound under- blessing and means of happiness to others. standing, and the grace of an accomplished It is not uncommon to find negatively mind-above all, with the disinterested kind- amiable individuals, who sink under a weight ness of a generous heart—they not only dig- of indolence, and suffer from innate selfishnify the performer, but confer happiness, as ness a gradual contraction of mind, perpetuwell as obligation. Indeed, so great is the ally lamenting their own inability to do good. charm of personal attentions arising sponta- It would be ungenerous to doubt their sinneously from the heart, that women of the cerity in these regrets. We therefore only highest rank in society, and far removed from conclude that the want of habits of personal the necessity of individual exertion, are fre. usefulness has rendered them mentally imquently observed to adopt habits of personal becile, and physically inert; whereas, had kindness towards others, not only as the the same individuals been early accustomed surest means of giving pleasure, but as a to bodily exertion, promptly and cheerfully natural and grateful relief to the overflowings performed on the spur of the moment, withof their own affections.
out waiting to question whether it was agreeThere is a principle in woman's love, that able or not, the very act of exertion would
have become a pleasure, and the benevolent peculiarity to be taken into account, in our purpose to which such exertions might be view of English society, that the acquisition applied, a arce of the highest enjoyment.
of wealth, with the advantages it procures, is Time was when the women of England all that is necessary for advancement to were accustomed, almost from their child- aristocratic dignity ; while, on the other hand, hood, to the constant employment of their so completely is the nation dependent upon hands. It might be sometimes in elaborate her commercial resources, that it is no un. works of fancy, now ridiculed for their want common thing to see individuals who lately of taste, and still more frequently in house- ranked among the aristocracy, suddenly hold avocations, now fallen into disuse from driven, by the failure of some bank or some their incompatibility with modern refinement. mercantile speculation, into the lowest walks I cannot speak with unqualified praise of all of life, and compelled to mingle with the lathe objects on which they bestowed their borious poor. attention; but, if it were possible, I would These facts are strong evidence in favor of write in characters of gold the indisputable a system of conduct that would enable all fact, that the habits of industry and personal women to sink gracefully, and without murexertion thus acquired, gave them a strength muring against Providence, into a lower and dignity of character, a power of useful grade of society. It is easy to learn to enjoy, ness, and a capability of doing good, which but it is not easy to learn to suffer. the higher theories of modern education fail Any woman of respectable education, posto impart. They were in some instances sessing a well-regulated mind, might move less qualified for travelling on the continent with ease and dignity into a higher sphere without an interpreter, but the women of than that to which she had been accustomed ; whom I am speaking seldom went abroad. but few women whose hands have been idle Their sphere of action was at their own fire- all their lives, can feel themselves compelled sides, and the world in which they moved to do the necessary labor of a household, was one where pleasure of the highest, without a feeling of indescribable hardship, purest order, naturally and necessarily arises too frequently productive of a secret murout of acts of duty faithfully performed. muring against the instrumentality by which
Perhaps it may be necessary to be more she was reduced to such a lot. specific in describing the class of women to It is from the class of females above dewhich this work relates. It is, then, strictly scribed, that we naturally look for the highest speaking, to those who belong to that great tone of moral feeling, because they are at the mass of the population of England which is same time removed from the pressing necesconnected with trade and manufactures ;- sities of absolute poverty, and admitted to or, in order to make the application more di- the intellectual privileges of the great; and rect, to that portion of it who are restricted thus, while they enjoy every facility in the to the services of from one to four domestics, way of acquiring knowledge, it is their still -who, on the one hand, enjoy the advan. higher privilege not to be exempt from the tages of a liberal education, and, on the other, domestic duties which call forth the best enhave no pretension to family rank. It is, ergies of the female character. however, impossible but that many devia Where domestics abound, and there is a tions from these lines of demarkation must hired hand for every kindly office, it would occur, in consequence of the great change in be a work of supererogation for the mistress their pecuniary circumstances, which many of the house to step forward, and assist with families during a short period experience, her own ; but where domestics are few, and and the indefinite order of rank and station in the individuals who compose the household which the elegances of life are enjoyed, or are thrown upon the consideration of the its privations endured. There is also this I mothers, wives, and daughters for their daily
comfort, innumerable channels are opened effect; and upon these she has to calculate for the overflow of those floods of human with precision, or the machinery of housekindness, which it is one of the happiest and hold comfort is arrested in its movements, most ennobling duties of woman to administer and thrown into disorder. to the weary frame, and to pour into the Woman, however, would but ill supply wounded mind.
the place appointed her by Providence, were It is perhaps the nearest approach we can she endowed with no other faculties than make towards any thing like a definition of those of promptitude in action and energy of what is most striking in the characteristics of thought. Valuable as these may be, they the women of England, to say, that the nature would render her but a cold and cheerless of their domestic circumstances is such as to companion, without the kindly affections and invest their characters with the threefold re- tender offices that sweeten human life. It is commendation of promptitude in action, ener- a high privilege, then, which the women of gy of thought, and benevolence of feeling. With England enjoy, to be necessarily, and by the all the responsibilities of family comfort and force of circumstances, thrown upon their social enjoyment resting upon them, and un- affections, for the rule of their conduct in aided by those troops of menials who throng daily life. “What shall I do to gratify myself the halls of the affluent and the great, they —to be admired—or to vary the tenor of my are kept alive to the necessity of making existence ?” are not the questions which a their own personal exertions conducive to woman of right feelings asks on first awakthe great end of promoting the happiness of ing to the avocations of the day. Much those around them. They cannot sink into more congenial to the highest attributes of supineness, or sufler any of their daily duties woman's character, are inquiries such as to be neglected, but some beloved member these : “ How shall I endeavor through this of the household is made to feel the conse- day to turn the time, the health, and the quences, by enduring inconveniences which means permitted me to enjoy, to the best acit is alike their pride and their pleasure to count ?-Is any one sick ? I must visit their remove. The frequently recurring avoca- chamber without delay, and try to give their tions of domestic life admit of no delay. apartment an air of comfort, by arranging When the performance of any kindly office such things as the wearied nurse may not has to be asked for, solicited, and re-solicited, have thought of. Is any one about to set off it loses more than half its charm. It is there- on a journey? I must see that the early meal fore strictly in keeping with the fine tone of is spread, or prepare it with my own hands, an elevated character to be beforehand with in order that the servant, who was working expectation, and thus to show, by the most late last night, may profit by unbroken rest. delicate yet most effectual of all human Did I fail in what was kind or considerate to means, that the object of attention, even when any of the family yesterday? I will meet her unheard and unseen, has been the subject of this morning with a cordial welcome, and kind and affectionate solicitude.
show, in the most delicate way I can, that I By experience in these apparently minute am anxious to atone for the past. Was any affairs, a woman of kindly feeling and prop- one exhausted by the last day's exertion? I erly disciplined mind, soon learns to regu- will be an hour before them this morning, late her actions also according to the prin- and let them see that their labor is so much ciples of true wisdom, and hence arises that in advance. Or, if nothing extraordinary ocenergy of thought for which the women of curs to claim my attention, I will meet the England are so peculiarly distinguished. family with a consciousness that, being the Every passing event, however insignificant least engaged of any member of it, I am conto the eye of the world, has its crisis, every sequently the most at liberty to devote myself occurrence its emergency, every cause its to the general good of the whole, by cultiva